Mimy—that’s short for Manavihare Flaindratovo— and I did the cabinetry/furniture program together at Laney College here in Oakland. Mimy went on to work for Berkeley Mills, a preeminent furniture and cabinetry company in California, and I ended up for a time at Tharp-Hamilton. We are at opposite ends of the spectrum, Mimy and I. My kids are grown, fledged, deep into graduate school and law school and film industry careers. Mimy’s son is learning to talk. When talk he does, it will be a combination of English, French, and Malagasy, the language of Madagascar from whence Mimy hails. He came to Boston to study music at the Berklee College of Music, speaking only French and Malagasy. That wasn’t that long ago. Today he speaks the perfectly inflected colloquial American English of a thirty-something musician/woodworker. Mimy is one amazing dude.
His wife comes from Portland and as their boy got older and Oakland got a little nastier around where they were living, they decided to move north. So I made Mimy a cajon to take away with him. It’s a box drum. The one I built is based on the flamenco style with Peruvian sizing. In Cuba it is built with whatever is at hand, and is often played to accompany songs sung for ancestors, the dearly departed. There’s a marvelous range of sound from throaty near the center to tinny at the edge, all of it adjustable depending on the slap used. There’s no way Mimy can’t be homesick from time to time, so I hope he gets through to his ancestors with the cajon and finds a little peace when he needs it.
I used 1/2” Baltic birch falloff from a earlier project, and a piece of 1/4” mahogany veneer for the front and back. Wrong, as it turned out. Too thick. The “skin” on the front needs to be just that. So I cut off the front and replaced it with a piece of 1/8” falloff. In this case it was falloff from Berkeley Mills, so nice stuff.
Here’s Mimy taking his cajon for a test drive. Why I turned the camera on its side I don’t know. It will never happen again. I can’t find a way to turn it, like a photo. So Mimy’s on his side. But you get the idea.
-- BlueHatMan, N. California, http://bluehatman.com/